The Portal of God’s Power!

James 5:16 ‘The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.’

Prayer is the ancient art form of worship that every human being has been hardwired up to engage in. My parents gave me a great example of an active prayer life throughout my entire upbringing. David Yonggi Cho’s best selling book, ‘Prayer that brings revival’ left an indelible mark on me and my relationship with God. I had a mentor, Mike Grechko, who encouraged me to get up every morning and pray for an hour and read God’s Word for an hour everyday. His challenge shot straight into my heart and has largely shaped my devotional life to this day. What is prayer?

Prayer is 2 way communication with God. It’s a dialogue, not a monologue. Prayer is our opportunity to pour out our hearts toward God and Him pour into us. Prayer is the posture of divine exchange and the birthing position for breakthrough in our lives. Prayer brings to the surface what lies in the depths of our hearts. Prayer is the chief mechanism of relational transactions with God.

Prayer is the portal of God’s power. A portal is a doorway, a gate or an entrance that makes a way into another realm. A portal literally means, ‘gate of the palace’. Prayer is the gateway into the palace of God’s presence, provision and peace.

Prayer is relevant to every dimension of life. Whether you are experiencing suffering, sickness, success or a stretching situation, PRAY. Don’t compartmentalise prayer to one dimension of your life. Jesus said, ‘My Father’s house shall be called a house of prayer for all people’ (Mk 11:17). The whole of God’s house is is to be saturated by prayer, not just one of the rooms in the house. Prayer isn’t an event, it’s a lifestyle. Paul said, ‘Pray without ceasing.’ We need to cultivate an attitude and a spirit of prayer, not just a daily appointment with God.

Righteousness empowers our prayers to be effective. Sin separates us from God but God’s righteousness given to us through Jesus Christ rightly positions us as justified in Christ. Righteousness is a position we’re called into, not a performance we have to labor for. We are the righteousness of God and thus we can boldly pray in faith, expecting Gods ears to be open to the prayers on our lips. We have access to God’s throne room through prayer and we are to boldly enter in. Prayer has a capacity to work all by itself.

You don’t have to be superman for your prayers to be effective. Prophet Elijah was a man with a nature like ours and yet through his fervent prayer, the natural order of things was broken and miraculous intervention to the extreme became a reality. Fervent prayer cracks the code of the impossible. Stop waiting for superman to turn up and start use the portal to God’s power working in your life = Pray!

The Oracle!

The Place of Political Incorrectness!

I’m very amused by the incredible lengths we go to, to avoid controversy and conflict in the name of cultural approval. Australia is rampant with it. Especially the Christian Church.

It seems like criticism follows the individual who goes too far (in some people’s minds) but never follows the individual who isn’t prepared to go further than their thoughts. It’s far easier to hide in the shadows, then stand on a dock and give a reason for the hope that you have.

When it comes to the office of the sacred desk, there is no place for political correctness. Line up John the Baptist, the Apostle Paul and Jesus Christ against the majority of us preachers and we fall far behind their commitment to speaking the truth in love. Keep in mind, all three were killed by their enemies. There’s a price to pay for speaking the truth, even in love.

I’m not advocating arrogant rants or angry outbursts or being offensive for the sake of it (although a good shout in the pulpit, every now and then doesn’t hurt), I’m calling for a commitment to speaking and living God’s truth with Christ-like compassion, love, wisdom AND boldness.

Any preacher worth their salt will eventually have a long line of people wanting to offer their opinion on what they could do better or do away with.

Why? Cause the cross is folly to those who are perishing and Christ continues to be a stumbling block of offense for many people. When a preacher is committed to letting the biblical text speak for itself and systematically working through the bible, at some point, it’s going to hit a raw nerve. Preacher, rather than shying away from it, run to it and embrace it. It’s your job to herald such a gospel.

I pray for God’s grace, wisdom and boldness to mark gospel preachers everywhere to declare the full counsel of God’s Word without fear or favor, and to the end of God’s glory and the salvation of people’s souls, let the pulpit be a place of political incorrectness.

Grace! (Matt 13:57; Rom 9:33; Gal 5:11; 1 Peter 2:8)

Weekly Wrap Up!

book of the week

I read an interesting book this week titled, “The pastor as scholar and the scholar as pastor”. It’s co-authored by John Piper and Don Carson. The book has grown out of a conference on the subject many years ago held in Chicago. It’s broken up into two parts and written as a testimonial and personal reflection on the topic from the two authors. It particularly interests me because of the current emphasis on pragmatics in pastoral leadership and the de-emphasizing of the theological and scholarly responsibility of the pastor. This book responds to this issue.

quote of the week

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, you’ve never been in a tent with a mosquito.” Unknown

moment of the week

My wife and I deciding to embrace a radical relocation that would ensure we would save a lot of money so we can purchase our own property in 12 months time. Eyes on the goal.

news of the week

Special guest speaker Sy Rogers confirmed to speak at Activate Church Friday 30th march to Sunday 1st April. Very excited.

Being a Pastor is Complex!

After reflecting on my growing up years as a pastor’s kid and now with 12 years of pastoral ministry experience myself, I have concluded that being called to pastor a local church is incredibly complex. Mind you, this is not a new revelation but the reality of this truth keeps on hitting home regularly.

There are so many variables at work in pastoring a church. The local church is a volunteer based organism filled with people from a multitude of backgrounds and perspectives, all with their own unique wrestles and challenges. As a pastor you can’t make people do anything, and yet God has entrusted you with the responsibility to shepherd, feed and lead people into the full stature and image of Christ, who often don’t want to go where God is calling them because of the pull of the sinful nature. At the same time you don’t have the leverage of $ to assert your authority and when you do ask for people to give faithfully to the creator of the universe, it’s met with all sorts of skepticism and suspicion. You are expected to change the world and everyone in it with limited practical resources at hand and when anyone has one of life’s deep questions to ask, of course, the pastor is going to be able to answer it perfectly because they have spent the last 25 years studying just to answer that one question.

As a result of all this complexity, my dependence on God is growing daily and I know that God has asked me to plant and lead a church, as much for my own sanctification, as for the fulfillment of the Great Commission. I know more than I did 12 years ago but I need God more each day than ever before.

Planting a church from scratch adds to the complexity. I never wanted to plant a church but in God’s sovereignty he called me to this work and it has been both a privilege and a painful experience to answer that call. Over the last, nearly 6 years we have seen Activate grow from 13 people meeting together in a lounge room to now over 400 people connecting with our wider church community every week, complete with a much larger budget, a 400 seat auditorium, offices, meeting rooms, guest lounge, kids city facilities, cafe, and op shop as well as extensive missional activity in the wider community, including feeding the homeless, life groups, activate academy, gender based ministries and the list goes on.

Pastors deal with all sorts of expectations from people, from God and from themselves. Some of these expectations are real and some are simply perceived. At times you feel like you have to be all things to all people from counsellor to fund-raiser to wedding planner to professional mourner to career advisor to worship leader to administrator to teacher to evangelist to wise sage to mentor to business guru to everybody’s best friend and the complexity compounds. Coupled with this are the personal issues in your own heart you wrestle with daily and the dreams and desires you have for your own personal future.

How should we respond to this? So glad you asked.

Begin with the Bible, not your feelings! Passages like 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9, Ephesians 4:11-16, 2 Timothy 4:1-8, Hebrews 12:1-3, 1 Peter 5:1-4, Matthew 20:20-28, Philippians 2:1-11 are foundational to a biblical understanding of the pastor’s role and vision for local church ministry.

God never called you to be the Messiah! This job has already been covered by Jesus. You haven’t been asked to die on a cross to reconcile man back to God. Jesus was and his work is now finished. This truth helps you keep the burden of responsibility in check.

God is Sovereign! This grand truth helps me sleep at night when I end a day with doubts, uncertainties and loose ends. I believe that God’s sovereignty are the bookends of life and ministry and as a result, I stay mildly sane. I planted, we are all watering but God gives the growth.

Do what God has called you to do, not what everyone else expects you to do! You will lose the plot if you try to be all things to all people to gain their approval and favor. Enough said.

Enjoy the journey, not just the outcome! Pastors love results. We get a spiritual high when the dashboard comes in and all the stats are heading north but are you enjoying the journey or just enduring it?

Create a healthy release valve! Exercise, friends, movies, dates nights, hobbies and holidays are all important aspects of life that need to be incorporated within your weekly, monthly and annual rhythm.

Keep loving God and people! Ministry is about connecting people to Jesus and Jesus to people. Don’t get distracted from the main thing – the GOSPEL works!

Grace!

Casting a Compelling Vision!

One of the key roles and responsibilities of pastors and leaders is vision casting. The senior leader is the chief advocate and example of the vision to the congregation or organization. Since planting Activate I’ve learnt many things about vision while sitting in the hot seat and learning what works and what doesn’t work. I’m so passionate about the topic that I have written a book on Vision (2nd edition being released in 2013) and while writing the book, discovered that there are literally a plethora of ideas about vision and some of them helpful.

At the risk of being just another voice crying in the wilderness, here are some of my tips to casting a compelling vision:

Know what vision is: Many of the terms we use to talk about vision are confusing – mission, purpose, goals, dreams, vision, the list goes on. Really simply I define vision as a clear and compelling God-given picture of the future.

The Ripple Effect: Too many of us leaders are so enthusiastic about our vision that we fail to do the work to get our closest team members seeing and owning what is beating in our hearts. Begin gathering the people closest to you around the vision and then move outwards in concentric circles to the wider fringes of the congregation or group of people. Generally the wider the audience, the more public the vision casting.

If it’s fuzzy in the pulpit, it will be confusing in the congregation: If you aren’t clear, don’t expect anyone else to be. Clarity is one of the key functions of leadership. Fuzzy vision generally results in hostile takeovers and directionless anarchy.

Use media well: We are living in a visual generation and thus you must be able to tell the story of your vision through pictures.

Tell the story: We all love stories. Tell the story of where you came from, the journey along the way and where you are heading. Don’t just be clinical about it but take people with you. I remember a disaster vision session whereby I enthusiastically casted my vision for global domination, only to leave everyone in the dust of my grandiose plans. There were pockets of excitement but overall, it left a bad taste in people’s mouths because I hadn’t given context and taken people on the journey.

Toxic culture will stop a great vision: No matter how great your vision is, if your culture is not healthy, your vision won’t get off the runway. Create a healthy culture in partnership with a clear and dynamic vision and you will get lift-off.

Grace.

What is in your hand?

Exodus 4:2 “The Lord said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?” He said, ‘A staff.'”

When God came to Moses and called him to deliver Israel from Egypt, Moses came up with a long list of reasons why God had called the wrong man. But God didn’t retreat from his call but simply asked Moses to consider what was in his hand.

When God calls you, he doesn’t begin with what you haven’t got, he begins right where you are with what is in your hand. Often we can feel overwhelmed by our inadequacies and what we lack rather than be looking at what is right in front of us. As a pastor of a growing church, I often find myself looking at the gap between the need and what we have to meet the need, be it people, leaders, ministry, resources, etc. I had such a moment the other day and God reminded me again, ‘Everything you need is right in front of you, you just need to use what is in your hand.’

Leaders, the resources, people, opportunities you need to breakthrough to the next level are already in your hands, you just need to look beyond the obvious, like Moses needed to (a staff) and see the potential of what God can do with the little you already have. Pastors, the money, people, ministry and opportunities are all before you but you need to use what is already in your hand. Stop looking at what you just lost or what you don’t have and see what God has already put into your sphere of influence.

God will begin right where you are. God called Moses to deliver a nation but it all began with what was in Moses’ hand. Don’t be discouraged by the challenges before you. God can perform the miraculous if you will faithfully use what he has put in your hand and better still, entrust into His hands what he has put into yours and he can multiply it and use it for his glory.

Insight!